How Do I Become a Mortician?

If you have the compassion to work with bereaved families and a sense of respect for the deceased, you might wonder how to become a mortician. A mortician handles the final arrangements for the dead, including orchestrating funeral, memorial or burial services and embalming or cremating the body.

Death is an inevitable part of life. Morticians have the opportunity to help grieving families by managing the logistics of organizing services and ensuring that the deceased loved one gets a respectful sendoff. Some individuals even choose to plan their own final arrangements during their life, enlisting the help of a mortician long before their death occurs.

As they coordinate the logistics of funeral arrangements, morticians may be required to fill out paperwork, organize transportation and establish the times, dates and locations of an event. Morticians help families determine whether to hold a funeral, memorial service or wake and whether the body should be cremated, buried, or entombed. These decisions may be based on the final wishes of the deceased person, the family’s preferences and cultural or religious customs. A mortician may also help families write obituaries and coordinate the schedules of flower deliveries and clergy appearances.

If a deceased person’s body is to be buried, the typical practice is to first embalm the remains, especially if the funeral service is to include an open-casket viewing of the deceased. Embalming is the process of sanitizing the remains using embalming fluid, presenting the body in a way that is respectful to the dead and helps bring comfort to the family and restoring or temporarily preserving the corpse appropriately for the funeral service. Because they are handling human remains, morticians must follow health and safety regulations precisely and be respectful of the deceased individual at all times.

Morticians learn their trade through a combination of education and apprenticeship experience. Aspiring morticians earn an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in mortuary science from a program accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. During this education, students will study grief counseling, sociology of funeral services, ethics and law courses and techniques for embalming and restoring corpses. Aspiring morticians should complete a one- to three-year apprenticeship working under the guidance of a licensed mortician. To become licensed themselves, candidates must pass a state examination after finishing their schooling and apprenticeship.

Though the work atmosphere at funeral homes and crematories is often somber, the job is important to grieving families and to society as a whole. Death is unavoidable, so economic hardships often have little impact on the job market within this field. Morticians earn a median annual salary of $54,140, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is higher than the $33,840 median annual salary for all occupations. If you have the skills to plan important services, the sympathy to bring comfort to grieving families and respect for the dead, knowing how to become a mortician can help you find success in a necessary and fulfilling career.

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